Enneagram type Six: The Loyalist

Driving force: Fear being overexpressed

Spotting Enneagram Type 6s

At the core of type 6 is fear, and whether they respond to it with fight or flight can make them quite passive or quite aggressive. Overt fear that gets directly at the survival anxiety and is aimed at a variety of things can clearly indicate a 6, although some 6s don’t show it. Look for vigilance and attention on worst-case scenarios, as a planner, a worrier, or a tough survivalist. Things that could go wrong stand out to them. The attitude is pessimistic-realist. Fear may push them toward authority or to rebel against it, forming countercultural alliances. 6s can be ambivalent about this and other things and go back and forth or express both sides of a dichotomy. This is one of the more varied types, with several others it can commonly resemble. Don’t assume 6s are “sheep” — they’re as likely to be the one saying “wake up, sheeple!” and can very much have their own ways of expression. When they commit — and it is more a when than an if — they are loyal and dedicated. They work hard for their own safety or stability and the good of their chosen organization or people. They can also go to great lengths to prove something to themselves. With a 5 wing they lean more private and serious. With a 7 wing they lean more sociable and funny.

Type 6s may make things worse for themselves by:
Stirring up their own anxieties
Giving away their power in their minds
Struggling to make decisions and continuously second-guessing them

Type 6s may make things worse for others by:
Suspicion and testing others
Naysaying and complaining
Projecting their anger or fears of what might happen onto others and blaming them

Why Do They Do That?

The possibility of the best-laid plans going awry, which always exists, is very real to 6s. Disaster happens to some people, and 6s are prepared. Their pessimism can be intended to share their insights about dangers with the world. It’s also just the truth to them. Scientifically, optimists may be healthier, but pessimists are more often right, and the world needs somebody to be right. Doubting and questioning also help them find the truth and produce a clarified idea of the world. Valuing loyalty and reliability in themselves and others helps them create safety and stability. Alan Moore said that “The main thing that I learned about conspiracy theory is that conspiracy theorists actually believe in a conspiracy because that is more comforting. […] The truth is more frightening, nobody is in control. The world is rudderless.” While conspiracy theorists are often 6s, most 6s are not conspiracy theorists. 6s are typically practical and truth-seeking. However, other things can fill the same role of being preferable to the idea that nobody is in control.

What It’s Like To Be A Type 6

The security 6s seek can feel both indispensable and impossible. So can determining the truth. Everything can be doubted and fail to be perfectly reliable. Their minds can be a constant buzz of worries and second-guessing. Trusting something outside themselves means putting their doubts to rest, which is why it’s both so valuable and such an important decision that can’t be made lightly. A 6 remaining dutiful to questionable parties fears that abandoning them will leave them alone, without guidance, and perhaps having made a new enemy. When struggling with a decision, they gather or model different opinions and debate them as if around a table in their minds. Enneagram literature uses the terms “phobic” and “counterphobic” to refer to 6s who habitually respond to their fear with “flight” or “fight,” respectively. 6s who are more phobic usually see themselves as anxious people. Counterphobic 6s may see themselves as brave (and have the actions under their belt to prove it). They aren’t always aware of anxiety and can deny fears or express them in terms of the rest of the world — someone is “out to get them.”

You can make type 6s feel heard by:

Accept that it’s important to them to continue to be loyal and hold up their end of things so others can rely on them.
Accept that it makes sense for them to feel like unreliability or unpredictability on your part is a threat.
Accept that spending time considering the worst-case scenario and negative possibilities makes sense for them to prioritize.
(You can still gently push on these things, but get into their position first and push from there.)

Take seriously that there is a possibility of their worst-case scenarios happening, while reassuring them that good things are more likely and even a disaster isn’t the end of the world. Encourage anxious 6s to leave their comfort zone, but don’t ignore it. Respect that it’s not arbitrary and help them come to a realistic perception of what bad thing might happen instead. Understand that encountering an idea can cause fear more so than for 5s and 7s who use them as a refuge, but that doesn’t mean all new ideas are scary ones — only the scary ones! It definitely doesn’t mean their comfort zone is always in the mainstream, or that they’re necessarily closed-minded or avoidant. They’re just as likely to want to investigate and “settle” them as soon as possible.